• Five steps can help your child make informed decisions

    Five steps can help your child make informed decisions

    Decision-making can be a tough process. However, there are few skills more important in school and in life than learning to make wise decisions.

    Before your child can make an informed decision, she must do some research first. Guide your child to:

    1. Get the facts. If she is asked to look after a neighbor's dog for the weekend, she should find out exactly what she needs to do. How often should she feed the dog? At what times? Should she walk the dog? How often?
    2. Consider conflicts. Your child has to study this weekend. She is also invited to a friend's party. Can she do both and still care for the dog?
    3. Think about the feelings of those involved. Say that the dog needs to be let out at 8:30 p.m. and the party starts at 7:30. If she misses the party will her friend be upset? If she turns down the job, will the neighbor ask another person to care for the dog in the future?
    4. Come up with alternatives. Perhaps your child can explain to her friend that she really would like to have steady work caring for the dog. Maybe your child and her friend can do something together next weekend instead.
    5. Accept that decisions are not always perfect. If your child decides to miss the party and care for the dog, she is giving up fun with friends. But she is gaining a chance to look after the dog when her neighbor travels. Sometimes good decisions require a small sacrifice to achieve a long-term benefit.

    Use report-card time to set goals and celebrate academic success

    Your middle schooler just brought home a report card. You can use this as a learning opportunity if you:

    • Talk about it. Are there any surprises--good or bad? Discuss them. If you're upset about a particular grade, though, don't start yelling. Not only will it shut down communication with your child, it's also pointless. So stay calm. "I'm disappointed about that C in language arts. We need to talk about it some more."
    • Set goals. Use your child's report card to chart a course for the rest of the year. If she did well, talk about how she can keep up the good work. If she struggled, brainstorm ways to improve things going forward. "You did a great job of turning in your science homework, but you stumbled on tests. What if I start quizzing you each night the week leading up to a test?"
    • Celebrate. Straight A's are always a reason to celebrate, but if your child worked hard to bring a C up to a B, she deserves a pat on the back--or a surprise treat--too!

    Inspire your middle schooler with a bit of guidance & love

    Inspire your middle schooler with a bit of guidance & love

    Want to send your child to school ready and eager to learn each day? Let her know that you've got her back! In other words, make sure she feels loved and supported at home.

    According to research, kids who enjoy strong relationships with adults:

    • Feel safer and have a sunnier outlook than kids who don't.
    • Are less likely than other kids to cheat on a test.
    • Feel healthier and happier than other kids.
    • Believe they'll succeed in the future.
    • Are nine times likelier than other kids to earn straight A's in school.

    What's the best way to show your child your love? When asked in a survey, students said they'd like their parents to:

    • Take an interest in schoolwork.
    • Really listen when they have something to say.
    • Meet their teachers and learn about their classes.
    • Stop comparing them to others.
    • Be good role models.
    • Spend more time together just having fun as a family.
    • Avoid lecturing about mistakes.
    • Treat them with respect.
    • Encourage them to do well in school and elsewhere.
    • Set reasonable rules and limits.
    • Notice when they do things right.
    • Offer guidance.

    Here's what middle school teachers want to tell parents

    Parent-teacher conferences at the middle school level are usually very brief. Your child's teachers may not have the opportunity to share everything on their minds.

    Here are some things they may not get to say, but certainly think are important:

    • Your child needs your support for success in school. Be aware of homework, tests and projects. Be suspicious if he never seems to have any!
    • Ask questions. You have the right and responsibility to know your child's grades and how he's doing in general. Send an email, or call the school and leave a message for the teacher.
    • Know your child's friends. Peers often become all-important in middle school. If your child starts hanging out with friends who experiment with harmful behaviors or rarely study, chances are he'll do the same.
    • Monitor your child's stress. Middle school students have a lot to manage. Some take on too much. Your child needs family time and time to relax each week.
    • Love your child with your whole heart. Tell him often (maybe not in front of his friends). Encourage him all you can. When he wants to talk, make every effort to drop what you're doing and listen. Remember, you are still the most influential and key person in your child's life.

    Reprinted with permission from the February 2015 issue of Parents Still make the difference!® (Middle School Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2015 The Parent Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc.